Mohammad Bin Salman the crowned prince of Saudi Arabia is also the chair of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF). And the PIF has decided to invest a large sum in the gaming industry. PIF is the fund that the crowned prince has been using to invest in different areas. The reason for this is so that they could alleviate their dependency on oil. And one of the ways that this has been done is by investing in the gaming industry. Al Jazeera has reported that the PIF has investments in companies like Activision, Blizzard, and Electronic Arts (EA).
Mohammad Bin Salman has claimed in an interview with Bloomberg to be “part of the first Saudi generation to grow up playing video games”. This might be a hint as to why the crowned prince is aiming to become a shareholder in this market. The PIF has said to have bought $3 billion dollars worth of stocks in different video game publishers. Of course, this is not the only fund from Saudi Arabia to have its hand in the gaming market. The Mohammad Bin Salman charity foundation also owns a 33% stake in SNK as well. SNK is a Japanese game developer company. And they’re not stopping there, the news is that the charity foundation aims to increase that stake to 51%. This will make them the major shareholder in SNK.
Riot Games were also in a sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia at one point in their Neom project. The Neom project is a $500 billion dollar project which aims to create a smart city that will become a hub for innovation and a tourist destination. Though Riot Games felt the need to back out as they had received heavy criticism for this. The criticism was based on Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record of the workers working on Neom.
What Does Saudi Arabia Being involved Mean For the Gaming World?
While this might simply be Saudi Arabia’s way of diversifying its investments. As previously stated, in order to avoid being dependent on oil. As well as the fact that the crowned prince takes a liking to games as he has said before himself. This could, however, also be their way of taking charge of one of the biggest entertainment industries in the world. With the number of issues Saudi already faces in terms of regular policing in almost all parts of Arabia. It will be difficult for game developers to function and write compelling stories that might displease the Arabian government. With that said, Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the gaming market is something that can either be good for the industry or turn it into a policed system which will only bring criticism from players. It will be interesting to see if Saudi Arabia will try and censor games or not.